NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Natural gas prices continued holding in solidly positive territory after the government reported an inventory rise Thursday that largely matched expectations. According to a weekly appraisal released by the Energy Information Administration, natural gas storage levels in the lower 48 states rose by 51 billion cubic feet for the week ending July 16. Analysts were expecting natural gas stocks to see a net injection between 49 billion to 53 billion cubic feet, a survey of Platts analysts said. The August natural gas contract on the Nymex initially pared some gains upon the release, but recently found itself rising by 12 cents to nearly $4.63 per million British thermal units. With stocks at 2.891 trillion cubic feet, the EIA assessment went on to show that storage levels are down 1.8% since a year ago. Still, inventory remains 9.9% above the average seen over the past five years. Crude futures were also trading higher, with widespread reports attributing the rally, in part, to
promising economic news out the eurozone showing improving manufacturing and services activity. The September delivery contract was surging $2.30 to trade at $78.86 a barrel. With the major market averages also moving higher on the euro figures and hopeful earnings results, oil-related stocks were riding the wave as well. The NYSE Arca Oil index was advancing 2.8% and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index gaining 1.7%. Shares for Dow components Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Chevron ( CVX) were also bounding higher, adding 2.6% and 2.1%, respectively. But Diamond Offshore Drilling ( DO) was sitting out the market's broader move higher after reporting disappointing second-quarter results and saying it clipped its special dividend Thursday morning. Revenue fell 13% from the same time last year and earnings dropped to $1.61 a share, below consensus forecasts provided by Briefing.com calling for a profit of $1.78 a share. Shares were recently trading 2.4% lower at $62.61 a barrel. Also reporting today, Cabot Oil & Gas ( COG) met second-quarter profit expectations of 19 cents a share, though that was still down from year-ago levels. Also on the Nymex, September heating oil was trading 6 cents higher at $2.08 a gallon, while the September gasoline contract was adding 6 cents to $2.13 a gallon.
--Written by Sung Moss in New York